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Western Washington chestnut cultivar and site suggestions?  RSS feed

Robert Swan
Posts: 18
Location: Western WA
forest garden hugelkultur trees
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Hi folks!

I'm planning to plant a chestnut orchard, but I am having trouble choosing the cultivars to plant. I plan to order from Burntridge or Washington Chestnut Co., or a combination of the two. Trees are 20-28$ each for grafted.

I'm planning to stick to grafted european and euro/japanese hybrids, no seedlings.

I don't want to plant chinese or any hybrid chinese that produce pollen, My area doesn't have the blight, and has cool summers and sub-optimal sun so chinese are unlikely to produce much.

I am planning to plant american and hybrid american chestnuts in another location - this area is just for nut production and having a wide variety of cultivars.

A little info about my site - I'm on a shelf that juts out of a north-facing slope in western Wa, with gravelly clay-loam that drains well. I have the option to put in irrigiation and add good soil to the site at planting and over time. The main issue is sun - basically none in the winter, some in fall and spring, and perhaps 6 hours in summer.

I am not looking for industrial nut production - a moderate amount would make me happy, and i would like the trees to grow well and be able to take cuttings. A reliable producer for a cool, short season would perhaps be better than a variety that can produce high volumes but only in a fertile, sunny floodplain.

Additionally, i am trying to decide on planting location. I have a flat patch that gets the best sun, and directly north of that a 30 degree north facing slope that drops about 30 feet.

I would plant the chestnuts on the flat, but as they get large they will then eventually shade the slope and make it unusable for anything that is not shade - tolerant.

I figured on the slope, the chestnuts would eventually "reach up" over the edge by growing upwards, since they will eventually be 60 feet plus, and get the light that way for nut production.

If i do this i may plant Hazelnuts south of them on the flat piece of land since they are short and wouldn't create too much issue shading what's behind them.

Do you think the chestnuts would survive and grow well enough to reach up over the edge? Would they be likely to produce at that point? Or should i sacrifice the slope, find somewhere else for hazelnuts, and plant the chestnuts up on the flat to begin with?

Below are the varieties I'm considering at the moment, if anyone has any experience with these, good or bad, please let me know. I'm trying to narrow my choice down to perhaps 10 or so due to cost. If you see a variety not on the list that you would or would not recommend, please let me know as well!

Belle Epine
Bisalta #2
Bisalta #3
Connecticut Early
Marron Comballe
Marron Di Chuisa Pesio
Marron Di Val Di Susa
Marron Du Var
Precoce Migoule
Silverleaf (Eurobella)
ReginA Montis
RegiS Montis
Bouche De Betizac

Thanks, everyone!
Robert Swan
Posts: 18
Location: Western WA
forest garden hugelkultur trees
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Well, i have another consideration!

I recently found a source of seed chestnuts from only about 15 minutes away from my site, who grows a wide variety of cultivars. I could grow each individual tree for less than a dollar myself, versus 20 dollars plus per tree.

My main concern is genetic diversity, and this seed source would allow me that at a much lower cost. However, i don't and won't know the quality of the seedlings until about 15 years down the road. I also don't know which cultivar each chestnut is from, nor which pollinated it.

I could potentially get scionwood and graft cultivars that i want onto these seedlings that i grow myself, but there are low success rates for chestnuts and after all the trouble it may not be worth it in the end.

I can also essentially get an unlimited supply of seedlings from my own mature cultivar trees in abut 5 years, rather than needing to wait and see what the quality is like and potentially cut down a tree i cared for over 15 years.

Any opinions? It looks like perhaps $450 to get 20 4 ft tall grafted cultivar trees, or $50 for a couple hundred seedlings i grow my own that would probably get a foot tall after a year.

Deer browse is also a consideration, the taller trees may mean 2 or 3 years less of fencing necessary around the trees.

Thanks all!
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
Posts: 3142
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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First off, there is no part of the USA that does not have the chestnut blight spores in the soil, that is why there are no 200 year old chestnut trees growing in the USA.

I would plant seeds density is key here plant them around 2 foot apart or even closer. As they grow up you will find the ones that are prone to blight and you can get rid of those, you will still have many trees growing up.
As they get older, you can pick the ones that start producing nuts sooner or select for larger nuts or both.
You will end up with some trees failing, those are the weak ones and they will go all on their own, or you can use the chain saw to select instead of letting nature do that for you.

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